Air plants (Tillandsia) are a fascinating contemporary gardening trend. These perennial evergreen plants are one of the easiest to grow species of plants out there. Unlike most plants, air plants don’t require soil, so they can grow almost anywhere.
Air plant leaves are the providers of water and nutrients for the plant. Air plant roots provide a system of anchors to help the plant adhere to trees or rocks. The roots can be removed with no harm to the plant. This enables you to place your air plant almost anywhere.
Air plants can be enjoyed tacked onto fountains or wreaths. They can be placed in terrarium type containers, into pots, or into hanging glass bulbs. They can be glued into shells or onto decorative stones. Air plants’ odd and interesting forms and shapes allow your creativity and imagination to run wild.
How to Care for Air Plants
Air plants do not need soil. In fact, soil will cause your air plant to rot and die. They grow in air rather than in soil, and they absorb water through small scales on the surface of the air plant’s leaves. These scales can be rubbed off easily; so don’t handle your air plant any more than necessary. Since air is an important element for your plant’s survival, encourage plenty of air circulation.
Water is an air plant essential. The humid conditions of a bathroom create a favorable environment for your plant. You’ll still need to water your plant -even in the more humid areas of your home. Be prepared to mist your plant two to three times a week to supply the plant with its much needed moisture. Or you can immerse your air plant in room temperature water for a half hour every seven to ten days. Air plants with bulbs or flowers should not be submerged, but can be watered upside down under running water.
Too much water will cause your plant to rot. Allow your air plant to dry completely before you water the plant again. Watch the leaves for signs of when to water. If they start to dehydrate and curl on the edges, water them.
To meet your air plant’s light needs, a bright southern windowsill with indirect light will be the best location. Southern light will provide the many hours of intense illumination that your air plant will love. Direct light can burn your plant’s leaves, so it should be avoided.
Most air plant species are quite hardy and enjoy a wide range of temperatures. Air plants prefer mild temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but they can endure brief exposure to temperatures of 90 degrees and above. Frost will cause leaf damage, and your air plant will not withstand prolonged cold exposure.
Fertilizer is not vital for air plant growth. It can help your plant to propagate new offsets, to produce longer lasting flowers, and to grow faster. A very dilute water soluble fertilizer can be misted occasionally onto the leaves.
As your air plant grows and matures, it will produce new plants called pups. When the pups have grown to half the size of the mother plant, you can separate the young plant away from the mature plant. You will have a new air plant to enjoy yourself, or you can share your new plant with a friend.
Types of Air Plants
There are over 500 species of air plants to choose from. Most species resemble little tufts of grass that will flower once over the course of its life. When you select an air plant, learn the needs of your specific species.
Here are a few air plant species that we think are worth learning more about:
‘Stricta’ is a clumping form that produces pink blossoms in early winter before offsets develop.
‘Inca Gold’ has a spidery shape with lovely yellow foliage.
‘Bergeri’ has an interesting form and loves rock garden conditions. Tuck this little air plant into rocks for a simple, green touch to satisfy that mid-winter gardening craving.
How To Find Air Plants
Air plants are a bit of a specialty plant, and can be a little hard to find in cooler climate locations. Gardening shops and nurseries may have a few in stock, but often it is one type. Growing several species together makes a beautiful arrangement.
Here are some product ideas to get started growing air plants:
To find a greater selection, we suggest you order a variety pack like this one: 5 Pack Assorted Tillandsia Air Plants. Smaller air plants work well in a terrarium or in a grouping. There are air plants ranging in size from six to ten inches or larger that can be ordered, as well.
Air plants can be grown in a Terrarium (Glass Globe) or just out in the air. Glass globes help in dry environments, like in an office or on a desk, to retain moisture around the air plant. Hanging Glass Globe Terrarium with Air Plant is already set up and ready to go, making a great gift.
You can grow the air plants on surfaces that do not hold water. A popular air plant idea is the jellyfish air plant, which uses a sea urchin shell. You can buy the sea urchin shells separately or in a kit with the plant: Air Plant Sea Urchin Shell Flying Jellyfish.
Check out this video tutorial:
Not all air plants need fertilizer. But, if you have an air plant that needs a boost or due to bloom try this: Air Plant Tillandsia Food and Fertilizer.
Want to learn more about growing air plants?
Please note that links to Amazon from Gardening Channel are affiliate links.